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Seeing the Draft Through Ted Thompson’s Eyes, Part III: Draft Review

Seeing the Draft Through Ted Thompson’s Eyes, Part III: Draft Review

Seeing the Draft Through Ted Thompson’s Eyes, Part III:  Draft Review

Ted Thompson has made thousands of decisions since becoming Packers general manager, and every one of them made sense to Ted Thompson.  They haven’t always made sense to us, of course, especially when watching national media coverage of the NFL Draft.  We watch exciting players keep falling down the big boards of Mel Kiper Jr. or Mike Mayock—only to watch Thompson pass on those “value picks” in favor of a “reach,” a player they think would have been available a couple rounds later.  That fool!, Kiper implies.  Didn’t he see all the bargains he was passing up?  Analysts stamp the pick with a letter grade—and, in our own minds, so do we.

That feeling of “are we really sure these GMs know what they’re doing?” only grows if we think back on past drafts and what could have been.  DeAndre Hopkins went one pick after Datone Jones in the 2013 first roundBoy, if Aaron Rodgers had Hopkins instead of Davante Adams running routes last year, there’s no way we lose that heartbreaker in Arizona.  Inundated with national coverage that often treats the NFL Draft as a competitive scavenger hunt, we are led to marvel at the secret geniuses who “stole” Tom Brady in the 6th round of 2000’s draft, and laugh at the morons who picked Giovanni Carmazzi and Spurgeon Wynn ahead of him.

Truth is, there are no mad geniuses when it comes to the draft.  The Patriots’ front office didn’t foresee greatness for Brady either; if they had, they sure wouldn’t have given other teams 198 chances to snatch him away before he went at pick 199.  The same is true for Ted Thompson, whose shopping list from the day he took the job in 2005 included “good QB to secure the team’s future after its 35-year-old legend retires.”  Thompson had no secret insight telling him that Rodgers was designed for MVPs; his scouts watched the same tape and saw the same strengths and weaknesses as everyone else.  But Thompson knew the Packers needed their next franchise QB in place to avoid spinning for years on the “mediocre QB merry-go-round of doom” once Favre retired.  Rodgers had the tools and makeup to potentially develop into that player, and he happened to be on the board at pick 24.  If Rodgers’ closed-door development gave Thompson reason to believe Rodgers wasn’t going to pan out, then Thompson would just start looking for his next franchise quarterback the next year.

Neither Belichick, Thompson, nor any other front office has access to some secret pool of knowledge or insight unavailable to other teams.  They all know the strengths and limitations of every prospect, and the only difference in their draft boards is the relative value they place on those strengths and limitations.  We can—and did, in part I of this series—get a pretty good bead on what Thompson values, by looking for common threads among his draft picks:  (1) high football character, (2) enough size and speed to succeed at his position at the NFL level, and (3) someone who fits a roster need.  Armed with that information, in part I and part II we tried to create the Packers draft board in the same way that Thompson would:  we assessed the roster to develop a laundry list of short- and long-term roster needs, and we identified guys who might meet those needs at various stages of the draft board and otherwise fit Thompson’s criteria for draft picks.

And we came pretty close.  We only missed one item on his shopping list:  we overlooked how concerned Thompson might be about Sam Barrington being able to return to form, causing us to miss on ILB Blake Martinez in round 4.  (We thought Thompson would be more worried about upgrading from Joe Thomas as a coverage linebacker.)  We should have known that Thompson wouldn’t count on the health of a mediocre veteran returning from injury, after he left the swing tackle position in the hands of Don Barclay last season (with disastrous results).  And though we knew Thompson wanted to add a burner to his receiving corps in the mid- to late rounds, we didn’t have our eye on fifth-rounder Trevor Davis.  (We figured Davis would have more draft value to a team looking for a burner/returner combo—as opposed to the Packers, who only need the “burner” half of that equation.)

Other than that, we knew Thompson’s shopping list—which, as always, was longer than the number of picks he had.  And we picked out the prospects who, on paper, fit those needs and the Packers’ criteria at different points of the draft.  What we didn’t know is what Thompson’s scouts foresaw when they looked at these prospects.  And we couldn’t—the Packers play it as close to the vest as anyone when it comes to their internal scouting evaluations.

But come draft day each year, Thompson and his staff are forced to put their cards on the table.  Thompson’s actions in the draft gave us a treasure trove of insight into how he views the Packers’ roster, the career paths his scouts expect from these prospects, and his future plans.  We’ll take a look at conclusions we can draw from each selection, and in some cases, why Thompson didn’t go another way.  We’ll also show how Thompson got “value” from this draft at every point—at least as he defines it.  And to do that, we have to start with a brief primer on how Thompson thinks about value.

***

What “Value” Means to Ted Thompson

Every single pick that Ted Thompson (or any competent GM) makes is—in his mind—the absolute maximum value on the board at that point of the draft.  But Thompson isn’t thinking about “value” in the way Mel Kiper taught us to think about value; it’s not just a simple comparison of the guy’s draft slot to where he has expected to go.

Thompson’s ideas about value are a function of his role.  Thompson is an asset manager for an institution valued at more than $1 billion, and his CEO has given him two basic tasks: 

(1) don’t sink this storied franchise (which, for an NFL GM, translates to “make sure the team isn’t without a good QB for long”); and

(2) get the most performance you can out of 53-player portfolio of assets without going over the salary cap.

This draft wasn’t about task one.  Thompson met his obligations there when he picked Rodgers over Favre in the 2008 summer showdown, and the promising Brett Hundley has him feeling OK if anything were to happen Rodgers in the next few years.

For Thompson, this draft (and most of his moves) was about task two.  Four-year rookie contracts are much cheaper than veteran contracts, and young players who give veteran-level performance at a rookie-contract price are the single best way for an NFL GM to maximize limited cap space.  This year, the Jaguars and Bears will use more than $16 million in cap space on DT Malik Jackson and ILB Danny Trevathan, both of whom were late-round picks of the Broncos in 2012.  Last year, when they were still under rookie contracts, the Broncos got the same performance from the same guys for around $3 million.  Get enough meaningful contributions from players on rookie contracts, and a GM might be able to create a $155 million, salary-capped roster that generates performance worth $200 million year.  And that’s a team that can compete with anyone, so long as a decent QB is one of the assets in that portfolio.

Depending on rookie contract performers gives Thompson a big leg up against teams with dead cap space and big-dollar free-agent contracts.  To acquire an asset once he hits the open market in free agency, a GM typically has to pay him more than 31 other teams are willing to pay.  That doesn’t leave much room for the player to outperform his salary; all a GM can really hope is that the free agent’s production meets his salary.  And that’s not the way to squeeze every ounce of performance of out every dollar spent.

From Thompson’s perspective, free agents don’t offer opportunities for good return on investment unless they are crucial for unlocking the true value of other players on the roster.  That’s why paying the open-market price to add Charles Woodson in 2006 was logical to Thompson.  The roster had one good CB already in Al Harris, but his performance was going to waste.  No matter how well Harris blanketed one receiver on the field, it was not going to affect the other team’s passing game—opposing QBs just teed off on Ahmad Carroll and other weak links in the secondary instead.  If the organization was going to realize the full value of Harris’s strong performance, Thompson needed to shut down the open freeway on the other side of the field.  Thompson and his scouts didn’t pay open-market price for Woodson because they thought he was a future defensive MVP—Woodson’s career trajectory at the time (multiple Pro Bowls early in his career, but none in the previous four seasons before 2006) offered no reason for Thompson or anyone else to believe that Woodson would suddenly start playing better in his 30s than he did in his 20s.  But Thompson and his scouts knew that Woodson could still play CB at a very competent level—and that meant Thompson’s portfolio would not only add starting-caliber play from Woodson, but would also finally stop wasting the value of Al Harris’s strong performance on the other side.  That’s a multiplier effect that can justify paying the price for an open-market free agent.

For Thompson, things are different when it comes to extending the team’s own players.  Thompson, McCarthy, and the Packers staff are better positioned than anyone else to know when one of their players is about to break through, and they can negotiate an extension before that player proves his true worth to the rest of the league.  Thompson’s done it before, including a six-year extension for Aaron Rodgers just two months after he assumed a starting role—well before Rodgers had shown us just how good he was to going to be. 

***

What Ted Thompson’s Picks Tell Us

Cap-friendly extensions for key players are crucial to keeping the team competitive, but Thompson knows the best value of all comes from contributors on rookie contracts.  Let’s take a look at why Thompson may have thought each of these picks was a good value, and what their selections say about the Packers’ internal deliberations.

Pick 27:  DL Kenny Clark, UCLA

Though he had other options to fill needs at 27, we knew before the draft that Thompson probably had his eyes on a pack of defensive linemen tailor-made for the 3-4, all projected at the end of the first round.  We didn’t know which member of that group was the Packers’ scouts’ favorite (turns out it was UCLA NT Kenny Clark), or which members of that pack would make it to pick 27 (all of them).  But by identifying the main characteristics we know Thompson values in players (because we see him pick guys with those same characteristics, year after year), we were able to identify Clark as one of multiple members of that group who seemed to fit Thompson’s profile. 

So, given everything we know about how Thompson saw the world heading into this draft, what can we discern from his decision to pick Clark at 27?  Here are a few conclusions we can draw.

Clark was truly, honestly, the Packers’ “guy.”  As is always the case, every GM in the NFL says he’s happy the guy he picked was available.  You’d certainly hope so:  if a GM didn’t like the guy he took, he probably should have taken someone else.  But GMs naturally have varying levels of enthusiasm about their picks, because they all have their favorites.  They don’t necessarily project all of their favorites as future Pro Bowlers; these favorites might be scattered all over their board, from a round one cover corner to a round seven special teams demon.  What makes them Thompson’s (or any other GM’s) favorites is one common denominator:  Thompson views these guys as perfect fits to solve specific roster problems he foresees in the coming seasons.

And we know, almost without a shadow of a doubt, that Kenny Clark was one of those guys this year for Thompson.  We looked at the Packers’ DL in part II of this series; if eternal optimists like us saw only one guy (Mike Daniels) who we wouldn’t replace if we had the chance, just imagine how badly the “nothing personal, strictly business” asset manager Ted Thompson wanted to gentrify that broken-down neighborhood around Mike Daniels.

Thompson couldn’t have asked for a bigger gift from the draft gods in this year’s draft class.  Linemen with the size to occupy blockers in a 3-4 are not terribly hard to find; Thompson found one in undrafted free agency two years ago in Mike Pennel, and grabbed Letroy Guion and Bruce Gaston off the scrap heap the same year.  But finding linemen with the size to occupy blockers and the athleticism and motor to give those blockers fits on a regular basis?  Those guys are much rarer commodities, and Thompson knows they fetch a large premium in free agency, if they make it to the market at all.  And in this year’s draft class, there were six of those guys who fit the 3-4 and were projected to go between pick 15 and the second round:  Alabama stuffers A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed, athletic project Chris Jones of Mississippi State, high-energy behemoth Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech, and two nose tackles, Baylor’s Andrew Billings and Clark.  

Even before Thompson heard about the details of these guys from his scouts, Thompson could certainly see why using the 27th pick on one of them was a sound investment.  If he “hit” in picking one of those promising linemen in the first round, then he might get a few years of $7 to $10 million performance­—the market rate in free agency for higher-end starters on the defensive line—for a little over $2 million a year, the average salary for a rookie contract at pick 27.  And if he accidentally picked a dud, a lineman who performs no better than Letroy Guion did last year?  That “first-round bust” would still offer some bang for the buck, because his contract is still 40 percent lower than Guion’s contract—which established the market rate for “mediocre-but-moves-OK” defensive linemen at more than $3.5 million per year in cap space.  From a cap-value standpoint, choosing someone from that six-pack of linemen was almost a no-lose situation.

And Thompson got his first choice of all of them.  This wasn’t an uneducated guess for the Packers staff:  not knowing which of those linemen would be available at 27, Thompson’s scouts surely did extensive homework on all of them.  And Kenny Clark emerged victorious as their best bet to become a high-end 3-4 lineman.  Thompson doesn’t reveal much emotion in his press conferences, and his words are guarded.  But compare his tone and language in the post-Clark press conference to his tone and language in the press conference in 2007, when the Packers selected Justin Harrell two picks after Darrelle Revis (the guy they reportedly really wanted) went to the Jets.  Thompson’s post-Clark press conference comes as close to “restrained jubilation” as you’ll see from him.

Once again, character counts.  That six-pack of linemen under consideration for Thompson probably didn’t include talented but troubled Robert Nkemdiche of Mississippi, who went 30th to Arizona.  As we know from looking at Thompson’s past draft decisions, Thompson is not about to invest a valuable draft choice on a player who hasn’t proven that he’s ready to take his football career seriously.  Mike Sherman conned himself into spending high picks on those kinds of guys throughout his borderline disastrous tenure as GM, with predictable results.  In the 2004 draft alone, he blew a first-rounder on CB Ahmad Carroll (who spent two-and-a-half seasons as the guy other QBs picked on before the Packers finally had enough and cut him), as well as top-75 picks on CB Joey Thomas (who was cut after barely seeing the field in one-and-a-half seasons), and DT Donnell Washington (who was cut after never seeing the field in two seasons).  To make things worse, Sherman got sucked in so completely by the mysterious potential of Washington—a man the scouts had labeled an “enigma” in pre-draft reports—that he tossed away a fourth rounder moving up to make sure no one else could get him. 

The roster pays the biggest price for those kinds of mistakes four years later—enough time for quality draft picks to have become established contributors, yet still carry only a rookie-contract cap number.  And what happened four years after Sherman’s Bungle?  The Packers went a disappointing 6-10.  There were other factors at play in that 6-10 record as well:  it was Rodgers’ first season as QB, and Thompson had to cut good players because of the cap mess Sherman left him.  But make no mistake:  Sherman cost the Packers four great opportunities to generate big returns on cap space four years down the road, and the roster paid the price. 

If there were a bunch of linemen with similar grades available, why didn’t Thompson trade down and get an extra pick?  Because when pick 27 rolled around, there was a perfect fit staring Thompson in the face.  The Packers scouts surely examined all the round 1 DL candidates with a fine-toothed comb, and they liked Clark best of all.  As for other teams, Thompson will take their calls.  But if there’s a guy on his board who stands out as the good fit for the Packers when his first-round pick arrives, that caller had better knock Thompson’s socks off with an offer.

No one ever has, by the way.  Thompson has traded down in the first round once in 11 years, in 2008, and it was because the six picks in front of him couldn’t have gone any worse.  The Packers were drafting 30th that year, and the guy they reportedly really liked, record-setting speed back Chris Johnson of East Carolina, went to the Titans six picks earlier.  After missing out on Revis in 2007 (and with Al Harris coming into a contract year), Thompson could have really used a pro-ready CB, as well.  So what happened next?  The best two remaining pro-ready CBs who fit the Packers’ size profile for the position (Michael Jenkins of Ohio State and Antoine Cason of Arizona) went off the board in two of the next three picks after Johnson.  (Thompson made a desperation play for a corner at the end of the second round that year, Alabama’s Pat Lee, and was punished with a player who busted.)  Next off the board were Lawrence Jackson and Kentwan Balmer, two D-Linemen with 3-4 size; neither really fit Thompson’s profile in other ways, but you can almost always find a way to justify taking big athletic linemen who fit your scheme at the end of the first round.  The Packers’ scouts obviously weren’t that excited about the next cornerbacks on their board.  Brandon Flowers went shortly after the Packers’ pick at 30, but at 5’9” he did not meet Thompson’s height requirements for the position.

So, Thompson bailed, went down to pick 36, and grabbed a guy who scouts said needed time to develop, but could be a special player eventually:  WR Jordy Nelson.  More on him in a moment.

***

Pick 48:  OT Jason Spriggs

In our pre-draft roster review, we knew Thompson could take comfort that the starters at OL this year were set.  But we also knew that 60 percent of those starters were set to become free agents after the season, and he needed to find someone with the promise to be a day-one starter at left-tackle in 2017.  Thompson couldn’t bank on re-signing all three of Sitton, Lang, and Bakhtiari, and starting left tackles are harder to find than starting guards.  Thompson didn’t need to pay a premium for a plug-and-play starter, but he needed to find someone who had the physical attributes and promise to develop into a starter by 2017. 

Before the draft, the highest-rated Packer-compatible prospect among the linemen who “could use a redshirt year”—by far—was Indiana’s Jason Spriggs.  There were other developmental guys who had the size and athleticism for the position who were projected to be available in the third and fourth rounds, but none had the elite physical tools of Spriggs.  While we thought Thompson would love to add Spriggs, but we weren’t sure he’d be willing to pay the first- or second-round price tag it would take to get him.

He was.  Bakhtiari is the odd man out in Thompson’s extension plans, which makes sense:  why pay a competent left tackle $8 to $10 million to be the starter in 2017, when he might be able to get equal or better performance from Spriggs starting next year, all at a second-round contract price?  But the math gets better than that for Thompson, because his scouts don’t think Spriggs will just become one of the 20-25 competent left tackles in the league.  They think he’s destined for much greater things—as we explain below.

We should be very excited about the future of Jason Spriggs.  As we discussed in the preview, plug-and-play prospects in the draft cost a premium over guys with similar (or better) traits who might need a redshirt year with NFL coaching before they are ready to contribute at their best.  Other than QBs, these developmental prospects aren’t normally drafted in the first 50 picks, because teams are rushing to get quality plug-and-play guys to fill gaps in their rosters this year.  To justify taking a developmental guy in the top 50, he has to have the promise of becoming something very special.

Thompson has used a handful of top-50 selections over the years on guys with scouting reports that read, essentially, “great physical tools, may need some time to really develop them.”  One of them was Daryn Colledge, who never broke through as a high-level starter for the Packers.  Another was Derek Sherrod, who was a disappointment but never really got the chance to develop due to serious injuries. 

The others?  A QB with an awkward Tedford-coached delivery but lots of promise (Aaron Rodgers, R1-2005), a small-school DB with serious athletic tools (Nick Collins, R2-2005), and an unpolished receiver with size and track-star athleticism (Jordy Nelson, R2-2008). 

Bottom line, if the Packers’ scouts thought Spriggs projected to nothing more than a quality LT, then Thompson doesn’t trade multiple four-year rookie contracts in this draft for four years of Spriggs.  The Packers’ scouts think Spriggs is something special.  It’s not hard to picture them high-fiving each other after sneaking in front of Bears’ GM Ryan Pace for Spriggs, depriving their divisional rivals of offensive line talent they really could have put to use.

***

Pick 88 – OLB Kyler Fackrell, Utah State

Before the draft, we could surmise that Thompson probably felt OK about OLB opposite Clay Matthews this year, between Julius Peppers, Nick Perry and Datone Jones.  The problem comes next year, because Jayrone Elliott and Matthews are the only OLBs under contract after this season.  In the middle rounds, Thompson could afford to take a guy who could use a redshirt year to develop before taking over as a starter—and we noticed that Kyler Fackrell fit the Packers’ mold perfectly.  When he was there at the end of the third round, it was probably a no-brainer for Thompson.

Why didn’t Thompson grab Andrew Billings at a big discount at the bottom of the third round?  Andrew Billings was a name that many pre-draft publications, including ours, floated as a possible candidate for Thompson’s pick at 27.  Thompson had his choice of two potential nose tackles of the future in the first round, and his scouts foresaw a brighter future for Clark.  They picked him at 27, and Billings proceeded to cascade down the draft board until the Bengals rescued him in the mid-fourth round.

If Thompson’s scouts looked at Billings and didn’t see anything special—and they clearly didn’t—then there was no reason for Thompson to think about taking Billings or any other non-special prospect in the third round.  The opportunity cost was just too high, and the value equation doesn’t make sense to Thompson.  In Thompson’s view, splurging on a falling prospect like Billings in the third meant losing Fackrell.  The third round was right about the expected range for Fackrell in mock drafts, guys with the frames and athleticism to start at 3-4 OLB are few and far between in the middle rounds, and there were 43 other picks (including several by teams with 3-4 OLB needs) before the Packers’ next selection.  Unless lightning struck, Thompson figured, one of them was going to take Fackrell.  And if Fackrell was a guy the Packers’ scouts thought could fill the Packers’ gaping 2017 hole at OLB—as he obviously was—then Thompson saw no reason to pass on a presumptive 2017 starting outside linebacker in favor of a non-special player at a position he’d already addressed with Clark. 

Doubling up with Billings could cause other roster problems, as well.  When asked in his post-Clark press conference Thursday about whether his first-round pick would play nose tackle, Thompson was noncommittal—he just said Clark will play “defensive line.”  Thompson isn’t being evasive:  Clark was his guy, and he wants Dom Capers to have the flexibility to put Clark wherever he ends up fitting in best.  Had Thompson added Billings too, then that flexibility was gone.  Scouting reports say that Billings’ natural position is nose tackle, and his lack of height (only 6’1”) doesn’t make him a great fit for end.  If Clark shows in training camp that his best position is the nose, as well, then the redundant selection of Billings would have presented Dom Capers with the choice of playing a first-round pick out of position or sitting a pro-ready third-rounder on the bench. 

In Thompson’s world, that’s not the way to get the highest possible return out of his draft choices.  The Packers need as many live bodies on the defensive line as they can get, but not at the cost of missing out on the chance to fill a more urgent need with a starter-ceiling prospect who fits Thompson’s profile perfectly. 

***

Pick 131 – ILB Blake Martinez, Stanford

We figured Thompson would be looking for an inside linebacker sometime after round 1, but thought he would prioritize coverage skills over base defense skills.  Sam Barrington has never been a high-caliber starting ILB, but he had shown he could credibly fill the role and we assumed that Thompson was counting on him to be a season-long starter inside for the Packers’ base defense.  With Barrington and Jake Ryan holding down the base defense, we figured Thompson would be more interested in plugging a slightly more glaring (and increasingly important) roster hole at ILB:  a legitimate coverage linebacker with the speed of a safety.

But Thompson picked Martinez, a base linebacker, instead.  Martinez fits the first two criteria for Thompson draft picks:  high football character and the physical characteristics necessary to do what the Packers need him to do.  But what about need?  As we observed in looking at past draft picks, Thompson doesn’t draft redundant pieces, because they don’t add value to the roster that he isn’t already getting from somewhere else.  And on paper, Martinez looks awfully redundant of second-year player Jake Ryan.  He’s the same size as Ryan (6’2”, 237 for Martinez, 6’2”, 240 for Ryan); his combine testing numbers are very similar to Ryan’s last year (4.71, 22 reps, 6.98 three-cone drill, 4.20 20-yard shuttle for Martinez; 4.65, 20 reps, 7.11 three-cone, 4.20 shuttle for Ryan); and his scouting reports describe their play in pretty similar terms, though Martinez’s reports put a little more emphasis on his toughness than Ryan’s did.  And while both of them have decent speed for base inside linebacker, neither has the ideal characteristics to serve as a coverage linebacker in sub packages.

So what’s going on here?  How does it make sense for Thompson to add the seemingly redundant Martinez to his portfolio?  Martinez adds special teams value, of course, but Thompson can find potential special teams demons like Martinez all over the place, including undrafted free agency—he’s not spending a fourth-round pick on Martinez for his kick coverage skills.  And he didn’t take Martinez for his long-term developmental potential; Martinez is about as much of a finished product as you’ll find in the middle rounds. 

The only way the Martinez pick “computes” is if Thompson is worried that Sam Barrington is not going to be up to the task in coming back from injury this year.  And that makes sense.  Barrington was not a high-level starter anyway, and he’s not a guy who had any athleticism to spare.  If he’s not the same player coming back from injury, then Martinez gives Thompson assurance that he won’t have to resort to patchwork solutions later on.  And if Barrington comes back fine, then Dom Capers has a three-man competition for the starting spots in the base—never a bad thing when none of the three options has yet proven himself capable of being a blue-chip starter.

***

Pick 137 – DE Dean Lowry, Northwestern

Thompson’s selection of Dean Lowry, a mid-round target we pegged as fitting the Thompson criteria, was pure cap maximization.  Thompson knows he probably isn’t getting a diamond in the rough here:  Lowry got Big Ten coaching at Northwestern, and he’s not a guy who oozes raw athleticism waiting to be tapped.  But he has good enough size to be a part of the DL rotation, and he showed enough signs of life in the pass rush (including six tackles for loss in one game his senior year) to make Thompson think he might have some tricks up his sleeve.  Lowry’s long-term floor is probably no worse than the level of Guion’s performance last year—and Thompson just showed that he values Guion’s performance at more than $3.5 million per year in cap space.  If Thompson can get three or four years of equal or better performance out of Lowry on a fourth-round contract averaging around $750,000 per year, he’s looking at a pretty good return on investment. 

Thompson can only bank those returns if Lowry can get on the field.   Fortunately, there’s nothing to stop Lowry from gobbling up all the playing time he can earn over the next four years.  To Thompson (and to us), it’s easy to believe that Lowry and his pro-ready game might well emerge as the best of the uninspiring group behind Daniels and Clark (consisting of Guion, Boyd, Pennel, Josh Boyd, and work-in-progress Christian Ringo), and we can envision Lowry spending at least some of the next four years of his rookie contract as the Packers’ starter at 3-4 end.  Worst-case, he’s a rotational guy.  Either way, Lowry’s probably as sure a mid-round bet as it gets to add performance to the team for four years at a low-price tag.

Lowry’s not an IPO waiting to skyrocket; if he was, Thompson (and everyone else) would have wanted him earlier.  In Thompson’s mind, Lowry’s a safe, low-risk bond that guarantees him the kind of nice, low-risk returns on investment that he needs from his roster to ensure that it stays competitive.

***

Pick 163 – WR Trevor Davis, California

We thought Thompson might be tempted to add a burner to the receiving corps in the middle to late rounds.  Jordy Nelson’s injury (coupled with injuries to the offensive line) had domino effects that left the offense in a black hole, and Rodgers, McCarthy, and Tom Clements often looked stumped on how to get out of it.  The most football-savvy Packer fans figured out the problem for themselves, and analysis-oriented beat writers like Bob McGinn eventually clued the rest of us in:  with no fear of the deep ball, opposing defensive backs could press receivers, sit on routes, clog up the intermediate areas of the field, and watch in glee as Rodgers tried to dodge pass rushers while searching in vain for an open receiver.

It’s not a problem that’s likely to recur this year, with Jordy Nelson back and Jeff Janis showing he’s ready to contribute—which is why we figured Thompson wouldn’t be interested in a burner until the middle rounds.  And he found his burner there, in California WR Trevor Davis.  Davis is well-regarded as a returner, which the roster doesn’t really need; Thompson has collected a lot of guys with return skills (Montgomery, Hyde, Abbrederis, Janis) in prior drafts.  But he also has 4.42 speed and great all-around athleticism.

No teams are projecting stardom for Davis, who is awfully thin (188 pounds); Davis wouldn’t be on the board in the fifth round if they were.  But he can let Thompson sleep at night, giving the Packers reason for a little more assurance that the puzzling offensive nightmare of last season—which surely embarrassed Thompson even more than it embarrassed Packer fans—won’t happen again.

***

Pick 200 – OT Kyle Murphy, Stanford

Finally, Murphy is another pick that directly addresses an embarrassing hole in the roster last year:  the lack of a decent swing tackle.  Undrafted free agent Don Barclay has hung around the fringes of the roster for years, and he helped the Packers out of some jams early in his career.  Barclay lost 2014 to injury, but Thompson—likely assuming that Barclay would be back to his old self—did nothing to add OL depth in the 2015 draft.

It was a colossal mistake.  Barclay was a disaster last year when forced into duty, and he (among other back-up OL) put the health of the franchise QB in jeopardy far too often.  Thompson’s fourth-round pick of Blake Martinez showed that Thompson learned not to count on marginal players coming back from injury; with Martinez, the roster is protected if Barrington doesn’t return to form. 

Thompson is banking on his sixth-round pick, Kyle Murphy, to solve the Packers’ swing-tackle problem for the foreseeable future.  As we said in our preview, Murphy (whose scouting reports suggest a ceiling of swing tackle or low-end starter) looks like a solid upgrade from Barclay, and he has experience at both tackle spots.  His presence will also allow Packers’ line coaches to focus on grooming Spriggs to be the elite left tackle Packers scouts think he’ll one day become, instead of trying to get Spriggs ready for game-day action at multiple positions on the line.

***

Conclusion

Ted Thompson walked away from the 2016 draft with a blue-chip stock (Clark), an exciting IPO he thinks is going to pop (Spriggs), a high-yield bond (Fackrell), a couple lower-yielding bonds (Martinez and Lowry), and a little bit of roster insurance (Davis and Murphy).  That's how we look at the draft when we see it through Ted Thompson's eyes, always studying his 53-man portfolio to maximize the total return at the end of the year. 

He doesn't always succeed, and his mistakes are on display for millions to see.  He often comes across like the stern father who keeps saying “no” whenever we pass the toy aisle.  And he refuses to go for broke chasing titles, because he knows there are always a handful of Super Bowl-contending teams each year—and which one emerges with the title is as much a matter of luck as it is roster construction.  Denver, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati all made the playoffs last year, and all of their GMs had constructed rosters capable of beating anyone.  Yet two of them were knocked out of Super Bowl contention on a single play in the first round of the playoffs, when Bengals villain Vontaze Burfict illegally clobbered all-world receiver Antonio Brown and ended his season.  That started a chain of events that lost the game for the Bengals, while leaving the Steelers’ offense unable to pick up enough first downs to prevent Denver’s fourth-quarter comeback in the divisional round following week.  Thompson knows he cannot control the randomness that often decides which Super Bowl-caliber team in a given year actually wins it.

All Thompson can do is to continue to be the asset manager that he is:  finding value, minimizing risk, and aiming for a return on investment that’s good enough to make the Packers one of those select few teams each year that is capable of winning it all. 

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wagszilla's picture

No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind steel eyes

RCPackerFan's picture

Just curious. How long did it take to write this?

Well written, well thought out, and great job!

Overall I really agree with everything that was written.

Tarynfor12's picture

Excellent read. I know some view Fackrell as limited and hold his age against the pick but what I see is a guy who will give rise to Matthews stock again instead of his lowering that was evident because of the failure of Perry, for whatever reasons sooth one's heart, the last 4 years waiting with profit returns so small not worthy on ink to log in on the ledger.

dobber's picture

He was one of the last outside rushers with length AND he's a good athlete. He might be older, but the Packers will get the best years of his career.

RCPackerFan's picture

Great job on the Fackrell pick btw Taryn.

I like the pick. i think he is a really good fit for our defense. I'm not concerned about his age, and I think another year removed from his torn acl will make him more explosive.

I am not sure how he will be used early, but I can see him getting more and more playing time as the season wears on. Probably more on passing downs then run downs. I like Fackrell's ability to drop into coverage too.

Tarynfor12's picture

Thank you....but it appears someone didn't see that I was talking good of Fackrell and that he will invigorate Matthews from the Perry induced slumber. : )

Spud Rapids's picture

I think Perry had his best year last year... Perry was a good pick when he was there in that draft, we've seen flashes of his upside but the one thing you can't predict is health in the NFL.A perfect example is James Starks... most teams passed on him because of his health issues in college but he's only missed 3 games over the past 3 seasons and proven to be durable given his running style. Perry has simply been a victim to injury. I won't say he has panned out the way any of us expected but I won't discredit Thompson picking him at the time.

sonomaca's picture

Fackrell's job is to make CMIII"s job easier by providing opposite side pressure. Since CMIII will likely last another 3 or 4 years, at that point Fackrell will also be done.

DrealynWilliams's picture

Lol, let Perry breathe, Taryn. Sheesh.

I do agree that Fackrell has the potential to be that guy TT has been looking for to partner with Matthews for quite some time. His awareness, efforts, technique, instincts (i.e. jumping in pass lanes while in zone coverage), pass rush tool belt, ability to drop in coverage and the use of his length should put him in rotation quick. We'll have to agree to disagree on his limited athleticism though. I'm not saying he's not athletic. He's much more athletic than Scooby Wright. I'm just saying don't expect him to be our savior at LB coverage.

Tarynfor12's picture

Never deemed him the savior but he can allow Matthews to be closer to it once again as was hoped and the defense overall and perhaps help squeeze those last plays from Peppers.

DrealynWilliams's picture

That, I completely agree with.

Nick Perry's picture

Well said... I started to really look at Fackrell after you began bringing him up and really liked him. Matter of fact I was messing around with my own "Mock Draft" on a post here and picked Fackrell in the 3rd or 4th round (Getting old and can't rememeber : )

What I did see was what you had been talking about, a solid OLB to pair wwith Matthews. I think I'm as excited about Fackrell as I am about ANY of the Packers picks, I love this guy. The best part is he'll play some this year while learning from some of the best, Matthews and Peppers. He scored a 32 on his Wonderlic so he's no dumb ass either.

dobber's picture

Nicely done. Good work, and thanks!

Japheth's picture

Why on earth didn't the Packers take DT Robert Nkemdiche out of Ole Miss with pick #27 in the 1st round? Plus take LB Reggie Ragland out of Alabama with the #48 pick in the 2nd round? We would've nailed two picks with top #1-15 overall draft pick potential. Instant starters. They have all the talent and intangibles you could ever want. Extremely athletic, speedy, big bodies. Our coaches could bring out the very best in these two stud players for years to come.

dobber's picture

Please see above.

L's picture

It seems you responded without reading the article.

justabob's picture

I fail to understand why people just dont get the fact if those so called top five talents were still available when the Pack picked at 27 at least twenty six teams also thought they were not top five talents. The others thought as mentioned see above, BAP measures a value that is more than just physical. TV guys will always grade based on what they see physically without consideration to team chemistry, or player character. not to mention medical impact.

Jersey Al's picture

Why? Because a fan isn't the GM. That's why.

Amanofthenorth's picture

Thanks be to TT

The TKstinator's picture

You have brought dishonor to Shem and Ham.

ray nichkee's picture

@the TK, i enjoyed that one.

dobber's picture

"That fool!, Kiper implies. Didn’t he see all the bargains he was passing up? Analysts stamp the pick with a letter grade—and, in our own minds, so do we."

The more that analysts like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay are wrong, the less value their own product has. They need to hit, and when they don't, they trash the picks to make the picker look dumb and the projector look good. Maybe it's personal pride...I think it's more a matter of protecting their own brand.

In the end, many of these analysts are the ones that shape our opinions leading up to the draft. I count myself guilty in that regard. Thankfully, we have several regulars here (writers AND commenters) who don't necessarily buy into the big-school, big-name-player hype.

justabob's picture

I love reading the big mocks so I Know who pack wont take. then there is on the money little guy Jersey Al who has his spy cam in the pack draft room. bet they do a bug sweep after this year LOL

MarkinMadison's picture

Who is his source?

Jersey Al's picture

wouldn't you love to know...

DrealynWilliams's picture

"In the end, many of these analysts are the ones that shape our opinions leading up to the draft"

Exactly why people should think for themselves and use their own eyes. It's okay to think for yourself and be wrong. It's not the end of the world. I mean, look at Cow. He's still kicking and he's getting more love than I ever remember him getting.

L's picture

Excellent article. A great read. However, I thought Dean Lowry (DE) was a bit more of a sleeper pick (possessing potential) than it seems you've painted him as. I thought that Thompson viewed him as someone who could provide a real impact at DE in the coming years and not just as "another guy". In other words, I too figure Lowry at worst should be seen as a fairly safe, low-risk kind of guy that guarantees the team some low-risk return on investment, but I really thought Thompson is betting on him being someone who's got a decent shot at providing more than just that given his outstanding size, strength, and explosiveness. I feel you're downplaying his athleticism a bit as I believe his metrics all looked quite good; it was his arm length that was really giving teams concerns and likely led to him being a mid-round guy verses anything else.

justabob's picture

My only concern with Lowery is the it reminds me of Carl Bradford with the short arms. we saw how well that worked.

The TKstinator's picture

Not sure that Bradford's problems stem from arm length.

MarkinMadison's picture

Lowry was a steal in the 6th. Short arms, whatever. You can't focus that much on one physical trait. 6 batted balls last year. Plays the run well. Shorter arms give more power. Longer arms have to be fully extended to matter.

dobber's picture

I hope he would have been a steal in r6...but was he good value in r4? ;)

croatpackfan's picture

As Matt correctly mentioned, if Dean Lowry had some significant upgrade potential, he would never fall that low, because of his measures and his performances on the predraft exhibitions...
And I agree that he was decribed as his hands comes directly from his shoulders, but it is not like that. He has shorter arms but not that much shorter. And, as everything around us, every characteristic has its pluses and minuses...

Spock's picture

Matt,
Great article, well written, well thought out, and great stock portfolio analogy! I've really enjoyed your "contributor" pieces. I think you've nailed, as close as anyone, the "TedThink" on the draft as applied to BAP and needs. I hope CHTV keeps your articles coming!

DrealynWilliams's picture

What I don't get is how someone can say this person is/was a bad pick if they've never heard of him or did any type of research on the person. Some people just can't be pleased. The only person I'm not high on that TT drafted is Martinez, but I will have to wait and see what he's like in camp/pre-season before I talk about him (like how I do Joe Thomas,lol). I have nooooooo problem being wrong. I also can't see him in Base, but that's a whole other convo.

We could do a whole lot worse than TT. A whole lot worse. I know I wasn't the only one that literally LOL'd at some of the picks other teams made. Stop watching highlight reels of players and watch some actual film if you're going to criticize a player.

EDIT:

I'll also never (ever...ever...ever) understand criticizing TT for taking an OT to protect #12. Seasons like the previous one is why we need worthy backups. By a show of hands -- how many want to welcome Barclay back as the backup LT? Keep 'em raised.

dobber's picture

I like Martinez on his own merits where he was picked. I think he was solid value. The comparison to Ryan has been made by others here before and is valid, and it makes you wonder about "redundant pieces". I like a starting tandem of Ryan and Martinez better, at least in theory, than Barrington and either. I think there's a lot of flexibility and more athleticism there...assuming one of them can effectively play the strong side.

DrealynWilliams's picture

"I think there's a lot of flexibility and more athleticism there"

This is what I do like about the pick. At the very least it gives us more athleticism and quickness in the middle. The rest will be determined later.

When you say starting tandem of Ryan and Martinez you mean in Nickel, right?

dobber's picture

I think Ryan and Martinez could be the base ILBs if the DL is playing well.

DrealynWilliams's picture

That would be interesting. Ryan would have to bring as much nasty or more than what Barrington brings when playing the Thumper. Might end up being similar to an AJ Hawk and Brad Jones type of tandem.

nostradanus's picture

What a great and well thought out article!
This is why Ted Thompson is perfect for the small market Green Bay Packers and is also why they have been relevant for all these years.
The Packers have earned the respect of the other 31 teams in the NFL and when the schedule comes out, most fans of other teams are already counting the Green Bay game as a loss.
Love it!
Ted "the White Hair" is the man!
Kudos for what looks like another solid draft.
NostraDANus

4thand1's picture

If TT picks guys he thinks will fill in nicely year 2, then why not take J Smith? Clearly Spriggs was their guy all along and we know TT isn't a risk taker. Ted has done great in round 2.

dobber's picture

Even with the deal-up, wasn't Smith already off the board when the Packers picked in round 2?

4thand1's picture

yep, cowboys picked 3rd in the 2nd round?

packfan2's picture

This article, and the three-part series it concluded, was one of the best and most thorough analyses I've read- and I read at least six sites daily. Really well done, Matt.

gr7070's picture

Curious which sites you like to read. I'm always looking for good sources.

Thanks!

croatpackfan's picture

You have to earn links to those sites ;-) ~~~~~

Jersey Al's picture

you have time to read six sites daily?

marpag1's picture

If you think about it, it's totally ridiculous to imagine that we can put much stock in the "Mel Kipers" of the world, with their big boards and player rankings that are supposed to hold true for EVERY TEAM. It's difficult enough to make these evaluations even for a single team, but how on earth can someone determine player value on a league-wide scale?

Perhaps there are a lot of fans who imagine that all players in the same position group are essentially interchangeable (e.g. a defensive end is a defensive end, a guard is a guard, and a safety is a safety, etc.). But that's terribly small minded, and fans who have even a little bit of savvy know that it's not true.

Imagine a guy who might be a very nice defensive end on a 4-3 team. That same guy might be almost completely useless for a team that runs a 3-4. The 4-3 team might see this player as the second-best defensive end and the 10th best player in the draft. The 3-4 team might say, "We don't really want him at all... except maybe as a flyer somewhere in D5-D7.

Other positions are the same. Do you want your guards to pull or do you just want them to be bulldozers? Are you looking for a linebacker who can stuff the run, or one who can carry that athletic tight end down the seam?

So how are all the "Kipers" of the world going to stack their board in a way that can apply to every team? And why do so many people scream, "But Kiper had him as the 10th best player in the entire draft, dammit!!!" What team does Kiper draft for??

In many cases, it is just as important - if not more important - to find the player that fits your system than it is to get a guy with raw athleticism or production in some other system. Some guys can play in your system. A lot of guys can't... even though they might be good in someone else's system. And a player who fits your system is value TO YOU, even if he might not be value to some other team.

DrealynWilliams's picture

*a round of applause*

AgrippaLII's picture

I use Kiper's and Mayock's and other big boards to get a feel for where a player is ranked. Then I eliminate players who have injury or off field issues. If I have learned one thing about how Ted drafts...he stays away from these players no matter what the Kiper's of the media are hyping. I look for players with things like "upside" and "football player" in their scouting report. Everyone knows what a team's needs are and can pretty much guess which positions will be drafted. The fun for me is trying to identify the guys I think Ted would pick based on the little bit of info I have available. I'm wrong most of the time just like Kiper. I love it that the Kiper's...who put way more time into it than I do...don't know any more than I do !

dobber's picture

I think this is what makes it all the more ridiculous when the analysts start throwing fits when a team picks against the board they've been hyping.

ray nichkee's picture

I agree with you marpag but there is only one mel kiper. Give the hair some respect. He's the original. I simply use draft analysists to open my world to the large pool of players that a normal guy cannot absorb on a saturday watching college ball.

AgrippaLII's picture

Wow ! ...this has to be the best assessment of how Ted Thompson approaches the draft I've ever read. Outstanding read !

4thand1's picture

that's the most I've read at one sitting in ten years. It was an excellent post.

ray nichkee's picture

Yep, somehow in an intellegent way he explained all the stupid shit these armchair GMs bitch about every year. I can comprehend. Some idiots can't. I pitty the fools. My dad is one of them. I'm surprised he still has arms on his recliner. I refuse to watch games with him anymore.

4thand1's picture

It was different between me and my dad ray. He used to say," what the hell is wrong with you."That was years ago,lol. I miss him.

davy jones's picture

This might very well be the most interesting thing I've ever read on CHTV...among countless articles and comments. This was truly fascinating and so very well articulated. Thank you, Matt and CHTV for making this God forsaken wait in an airport a little less tedious!

John Galt III's picture

Matt,

The Packers should hire you!!

Great article - great research

Is Matt Lynch the pen name for TT?

croatpackfan's picture

No! I strongly believe there is more smart and clever guys besides Ted Thompson who are really understands draft and Salary cap philosophy. Matt is obviously one of them. We are just lucky that he chose Cheesehead tv page to give us his explanation in written. Thanks for that you guys from Cheesehead tv and you Matt. Please stick around!

MarkinMadison's picture

One thing is for certain: TT got guys he really wanted in the first two rounds. Im very excited about that alone.

Matt Lynch's picture

Thanks so much to everyone. This was a fun exercise for me, and I'm glad you had fun with it too. Remember, all of us follow Packers football more closely than anyone in the national media does. When it comes to the Packers, we're all better-suited than they are to reach the right conclusions.

CzechMan89's picture

Well done Matt; this is my first time reading an article on CheeseheadTV and I gotta say it couldn't have been a better start! Looking forward to future articles you may write. Keep up the great work, it's appreciated. (Everyone, round of applause for Matt huh?!)

Community Guy's picture

dear Matt:

like other commenters, i very much enjoyed reading this. the analysis is deep and includes the financial aspects of draft decision making (amazing how much draft analysis leaves out the financial aspect of decision making!). i have been agreeing with your major points. sometimes i am finding research about players that does not correlate with your findings. e.g., i read this about Blake Martinez on Pro Football Focus' website: "Martinez had the highest coverage grade among linebackers in the draft class." if this is the case, then your analysis of Martinez may be wrong. still, i enjoyed the narrative and the effort you made in writing your series. are you ready to write a biography on one of the greatest GMs in modern pro football??

Oppy's picture

Great article.

That said, I think you might be missing something on this point:

"Bottom line, if the Packers’ scouts thought Spriggs projected to nothing more than a quality LT, then Thompson doesn’t trade multiple four-year rookie contracts in this draft for four years of Spriggs. "

While this might be true, you are forgetting that the value of the picks that were traded is dependent on the quality of the players in the particular draft, and how they bunch and group into different tiered levels of talent.

If the Packers are looking at their big board and they feel the drop off between the value of Spriggs and the value the remaining players at their current pick position is a large gap, and at the same time they feel the players that will likely be remaining at the later picks will generally not be good values at those slots, it is entirely possible that the Packers make a move for Spriggs even if they feel he's nothing more than "a quality LT", especially if he also fills a present or future need (which he does.)

On the topic of scouting, one more nit pick:

"Neither Belichick, Thompson, nor any other front office has access to some secret pool of knowledge or insight unavailable to other teams. They all know the strengths and limitations of every prospect.."

Consider the above statement, juxtaposed with this excerpt:

"Thompson, McCarthy, and the Packers staff are better positioned than anyone else to know when one of their players is about to break through, and they can negotiate an extension before that player proves his true worth to the rest of the league."

While it IS true that scouts and front offices all have access to the same combine results, measurements, and game film of any given player (at least, from the Div I & most of Div II programs), there is most definitely "secret pool(s) of knowlege and insight" to be gleaned that isn't accessible equally by all. Those insights and knowledge come from the personal relationships different NFL scouts and execs have with various personnel inside the various collegiate programs. Just as you state that the Packers staff is best positioned to know when one of their players is poised to break through and reach their ultimate talent level before anyone else in the league has any idea, so it is with the coaching and training staff of any given college program. They are also the best suited to know when a player is more hype than real deal, when a player has fatal character or work ethic flaws, etc and so forth. Most of the time, these coaches and trainers will tow the company line on their players, because it's good for the program to have their guys selected in the NFL draft, and they have relationships with those players (obviously.) However, a position coach or a trainer who may tow that company line on a player for 31 scouts, may be inclined to give the scout who was his old college room mate (or whatever) his honest opinion on a player's deficiencies, or other insider information. Often, it's those little inside tidbits or whispers that come only from personal relationships that can better prepare one team than another in terms of scouting.

holmesmd's picture

Oppy,
Great point and very true!

Rodrigo Pinto's picture

Applause

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Mr. Lynch, this article was so good that I went back and read Part I and Part II. I note you mentioned every player drafted by TT other than Davis, and you discussed most of the players actually taken at some length. As a prognosticator for TT, I'd have to give you an A+.

I'd guess that the arguments you presented (on behalf of TT) for taking Clark are sound. I am not sure they stand up to cross-examination, but that should be directed at TT rather than the author. The "enough size/speed to succeed in the NFL" seems like a low threshold for the first round.

I grant that Clark checked all the boxes (maybe he has some "juice" and versatility too, though I doubt it), but I do not think he was such a perfect fit that a trade down offer should have had to knock TT's socks off. In 2008, TT traded from 30 to #36, netting pick #114. Not lucrative but not bad, so if no one available at 30 in 2008 checked all of TT's boxes, then the comparison is inapt. The early rounds of the 2008 draft had a lot of busts, inc. TT drafting Brohm and Lee in the 2nd, doing his mite to contribute to that reputation. Still, the trade up 31 to #26 netted #94 (Nick Vannett taken, w Justin Simmons available), and the trade up #37 to #28 netted #105 & #178. Both sound pretty lucrative to me, particularly the former.

Does Davis check the "has the enough size/speed" box at 188Lbs? He checks the need box. hard to present a fully developed argument for Davis. I like Davis better than Listenbee, and I have no way of knowing if some other GM was interested in him so he had to be taken in the 5th round. I don't know why Charon Peake fell to Rd 7, but he had some speed and size. I'll give TT the benefit of the doubt on 2nd/3rd round WRs, but his record on later round WRs is bad.

BTW, I like TT's draft overall.

holmesmd's picture

Reynoldo,
I was a huge Butler proponent going into the draft for many of the same reasons I'm happy with the Clark pick. They are actually very similar players IMO. Butler is bigger and played lesser quality competition to some degree. I'm sure you would acknowledge that with DL being the strength of this draft, the Packers put a ton of work into grading the DL. They were all available at #27 and they took Clark. That tells me that he was the #1 DL on their board. I don't think any of us have near the info the Packers collected over 10 months on Clark to justify rejecting their conclusions. I trust their expertise and think we will see that Clark will be a very good NFL DL!

robert's picture

What a terrific article. Bravo Matt!

gr7070's picture

I reread articles 1 and 2, which I was very impressed with the first time.

On the second reading I paid more attention to the specific players listed. Very impressive projections of Packers interests.

Those articles are phenomenal.

Matt Lynch's picture

You should try that projection yourself next year - I'm willing to bet you'll do at least as well as I did, and it doesn't take as much time as you might think. Having gone through it once, I can give you a few shortcuts (basically, how I'd approach it if I were to do it all over again, knowing what I know now):

1. Go position-by-position on the roster to draw up Thompson's shopping list. (You can use sites like Spotrac to tell you who is heading into a contract year.)

2. For each item on the list, take a look at summary scouting reports for the prospects who might fill that need. (There are plenty of sites with fairly reliable reports that are short enough they only take a minute or two each to review.) You can skip reports on guys who are projected to go earlier in the draft than Thompson would logically think about addressing that need. You can also skip reports on anyone who is obviously lacking the physical dimensions that Thompson wants from someone in that role. For everyone else, just have fun perusing the reports and spotting the guys who best fit each shopping-list need, and who possess the other characteristics we outlined in part I.

The hardest part, by far, is to stay disciplined and remember that you aren't looking for guys who "could" fit, or who would "look good in the green and gold." (Trust me, your imagination will run wild and you'll end up with way too many names.) Instead, you're trying to spot guys who would have more value to the Packers than most other teams in the part of the draft they're projected to go. So, as you're reading each guy's strengths and weaknesses, ask, "Will these matter more or less to the Packers than other teams?" If you find someone whose strengths match up with the Packers' wants and needs better than other teams - and whose weaknesses or limitations are things Thompson and the team can live with - then you know you've found a good Packers target.

You'll get the hang of it pretty quickly, and after a few hours you'll have a relatively tight group of guys at each position who look like possible Packer targets at different points in the draft. It may not capture all of those targets, and the Packers do occasionally take guys who would seem to be better fits for teams with different needs or that employ different schemes or philosophies. But I'll wager that your list will include most of the guys who ultimately end up as Packers by the end of the draft.

Give it a try next year if you have the time. It makes for a much different experience when following how the draft actually plays out.

WKUPackFan's picture

The salary cap component is the main issue here. Naturally everyone wants every pick to be great, but history shows that is not going to happen.

Having guys on rookie contracts is huge. Some folks were salivating for Trevathian. He's good, but not a game changing player. It's so much better to have a Barrington, Thomas, or Martinez; especially at a non-premium position like ILB. In the meantime, the Bears blow a bunch of money when they clearly have many other needs. It's a win/win for the Packers.

Jacksonville's situation was a little different. The Jags had to get to the salary cap floor, so overpaying Jackson is not as big a sin as it appears.

dobber's picture

Every dollar you spend at one position is a dollar you can't spend somewhere else. Do the Bears have the bodies up front to allow Trevathan and Freeman to be at their best? Will they regret the $$ they've paid there?

packfan44's picture

Well written, well explained, one of the best post draft articles I've read! Please keep writing articles that make sense and one can understand!

lucky953's picture

Matt, you make it all sound so rational. Your investment banking metaphor was illuminating. Excellent writing. Is Ted Thompson the Warren Buffet of GMs? (don't think so). whatever happened to the "crapshoot"? I guess that points to the intangibles behind the intangibles.

packfriend's picture

Late to the party here, but this is one of the best articles I've read on any site regarding the Packers' draft. Well done!

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